Breastfed Babies Are Not Stronger Babies

By Danelle Frisbie

While we don't appreciate all the infant health advertisements that have come out of the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in recent months (their safe sleep campaign needs some real research-based help), this ad is more along the right track. It was developed by the City of Milwaukee Health Department (individual credits below) and printed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by the Partners for Humanity.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department's Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Division has the following goals:

  • To reduce racial and ethnic disparities in infant mortality.
  • To improve school-readiness of pre-school children.
  • To reduce teen pregnancy and improve access to reproductive health services.
This breastfeeding ad supports at least the first two goals, and gives parents another reason to consider providing human milk for their human baby. 

However, in reality, while may not make for positively-spun, feel-good advertising, it is not that breastfed babies are stronger - they are merely baseline in terms of natural human strength and body/brain development. Those who do not receive human milk, unfortunately, tend to be below baseline in terms of bone mass, muscle mass, core strength, and body/brain development and functioning. Breastfed babies are not stronger than the human norm; Artificially fed babies are weaker. There are always individual exceptions to this (or any) norm, but when we are speaking from a quantitative, sociological standpoint, across the board, human infants who receive human milk develop as they are meant to develop as human beings -- they exhibit the expected outcome level for our species of carry mammals -- and those who do not receive human milk are at a disadvantage.

In any given area, Milwaukee included, if artificial feeding is more common (more typically seen) than normal feeding, this does not negate or change the baseline level of human health/development when human beings have access to those basic things they were meant to receive. It merely means more people fall below this line. Even in the midst of fun advertising, we need to remember to watch our language... Breast isn't best: It's baseline.


Serve Marketing

Gary Mueller

Mike Scalise

Mike Holicek/Kelly Hardwick

Heather Aldrich

Eric Sahrmann

Abe Finklestein

(books, websites, articles for nursing mothers)



  1. i couldn't agree more! i have been saying that about the studies that claim that breastfed babies r smarter. what they really need to be telling parents is that formulafed babies r less intelligent. why is it so wrong to simply state the truth. it's not that we help our babies by breastfeeding them, but that we hurt them by choosing not to.

  2. In no way am I demoting breastfeeding, but if breastfeeding is only baseline, then what you are suggesting is that there is something that is better. So what is it?

  3. And it would have been so simple for them to avoid the comparison altogether: Breastfed babies are STRONG babies.

    Pitting breastfed against formula fed, regardless of which is being treated as the norm, contributes to the infamous 'mommy wars.' I think we are at a point, socially, where we need to stop the side by side comparisons and just ease back on the us vs them mentality that is undermining support and acceptance of mothers, babies, and families.

  4. this also contributes to the idiotic stereotype that naturally fed babies are "overweight"

  5. The ad is comparing breastfed babies to formula fed babies. So breastfed babies are stronger than formula fed babies. There's too much pickiness about "watching our language" when it comes to promoting breastfeeding. If it's advertised in places where formula feeding is the majority, then I think this ad would be accurate.

  6. Reminds me of this vintage ad:

    Of course breastmilk WILL make a strong baby and Karo syrup won't. But it's still a little creepy seeing these "tough" babies.

  7. Yes! On so many levels! And it applies to many other "debates" as well. For example, it's not that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, it's that *not* breastfeeding increases the risks. Etc. We need to change the conversation!

  8. I get comments so often about how "advanced" my child is. I always say, "Nope,she is normal. Still breastfeeding @ 3 years and cafe free sleeping does a lot! Thanks for noticing."

  9. the racialized nature of these ads are quite disturbing and simply reinforce old stereotypes of the angry black male. sad to see in what could have been a great campaign.

  10. LOVE this article. I love the very last line "Breast isn't best; it's baseline."

  11. As a fitness instructor, when people come to the gym, I don’t say, “Being sedentary & eating processed food INCREASES your risks of cancer & heart disease.”

    Everyone says, “Exercising & eating whole grains & fruits & veggies DECREASES your risks of cancer & heart disease.”
    & I see nothing wrong with that.

    When communicating with people, you should consider their FRAME OF REFERENCE – where they are coming from. Why would we act like we’re on another planet where formula-feeding is rare? What good does that do?!

    While technically, scientifically, it IS true that the formula-fed babies are weaker, if our GOAL is to ENCOURAGE BFing (which, let's face it, is NOT easy), it makes sense to promote in this way (i.e. "benefits"/ "added value" of BF).

  12. Erin IntactivistLactivist RopposchJanuary 05, 2012 11:07 PM

    So, there's a new fb page called Best Feeding. And, while I want to support everything breastfeeding, I keep thinking of this and similar stances where point out that human milk isn't just "best", it's Normal. Also, the creator of the page is supportive of not circumcising, and letting a person choose when they're an adult, but also thinks that circumcision should be left to the parents to decide, and isn't the torturous experience some claim. 0_0 SO, perhaps some supporters can help me enlighten her?



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